review by Gianni Truzzi, 28 June 2002 

28th Seattle International Film Festival

It’s a peculiar condition of modern life that the more pressed among us will fantasize about being incarcerated. Think of all the reading prison would give you time for, or the novel you could write if you were locked up for several months. None of these intellectual pastimes, however, seem to occur to Zoe, the needy motor mouth under house arrest in Finn Taylor’s new film. For Zoe, being alone with herself is her worst source of anxiety.

Zoe (Robin Tunney) is pretty enough to date frequently, even compulsively, unable to sit still in her hard-earned San Francisco condo. To her therapist’s (a grossly underutilized Lindsay Crouse) chastisement for such profligate dating habits, Zoe speculates, "I don’t think I’d go out with so many if any one of them would call me back."

How a woman so accessible acquires a secret stalker is one of the larger mysteries in this film that oscillates between a suspense thriller and romantic comedy. One would think the mysterious stranger spends enough time observing her to learn the word that will snag Zoe’s frenetic interest – it’s “Hello.” Nevertheless, in a bungled carjacking meant to abduct her, he runs over a policeman and flees the scene, leaving her to take the blame.

Fearful of prison, Zoe agrees to participate in the electronic bracelet program, which allows her to serve her pre-trial incarceration in a low-rent loft (having to sell her condo to pay for her unsympathetic attorney).  This requires regular visits from Bill (Tim Blake Nelson), the technician who installs and monitors the technology that assures Zoe remains within the apartment. Bill, of course, begins to fall in love with the defiant young woman who insists on her unprovable innocence.

The story proceeds as Zoe tries to find ways to cope with her boredom, and to find ways of stretching the limits of her bonds. She makes friends with a wheelchair-bound, pugnacious (and gay, and Jewish) dwarf in the same building – albeit a limited one since she can’t go downstairs and he can’t ascend them. Ultimately, she needs to determine who her stalker his and get the police to catch him – for which, in her circumscribed state, she needs allies.

Finn Taylor’s second directorial effort is as amusing and light as the 70s and 80s pop music it uses as its soundtrack, yet it pulses with lurking ambition to be a bigger, studio film. Watching Tunney’s neurotic Zoe flail, one senses the role beckoning for Sandra Bullock. Instead of Nelson as the nerdy technician, John Cusack might have taken it on. It’s no slight to these actors, who give the roles flesh with due diligence. It’s just that trifles like this usually rely on the charisma of stars to smooth over such a formulaic and frequently implausible story.

For example, placing the attractive Tunney in a Rosanna Rosanadana hairstyle is reminiscent of the adage that Hollywood’s idea of an ugly woman is a beautiful one in glasses. Of course, she loses that feature quickly once she is confined, ironing her hair to produce her “real” look and clumsily signaling that Zoe will undergo inner change.

As the film proceeds, one can feel the plot points clicking into place, like tumblers in a combination lock. First we get the character and her need established, then the dramatic event, followed by conflicts A, B and C. There’s little surprise or commentary here, just a sound delivery of entertainment.

What’s wrong with that? Well, nothing much. It’s what we get on television all the time – for free. It’s also what we’re accustomed to having in the summer, a jolly piece of unchallenging distraction. Still, it’s not what one would likely expect from a small, moderate-budget film. Cherish is bright and fun, but disappointingly average. One might have hoped that an independent film might have made better use of its liberty.

Seattle International Film Festival Coverage:



Directed by:
Doug Liman

Matt Damon
Franka Potente
Brian Cox
Tim Dutton
Chris Cooper.

Written by:
Tony Gilroy
William Blake Herron

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may be
inappropriate for
children under 13.





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